Things have been quiet on the GPU front for a while now, but there has definitely been activity on the pricing front. With the economy in the toilet, spending on hardware and games has declined; AMD and NVIDIA are fighting for your purchase. Prices are fairly compressed between $100 and $200, and spending just a little more can get you a whole lot of bang. We'll start on the low end and move up as we go. 

We use price and availability at newegg.com as an indicator of the broader market in order to simplify our data and give more clear recommendations.


Sub $100 Cards

At the lower end of the spectrum, the Radeon HD 4670 can be had for less than $70 USD (down to $50 if you don't mind the rebate hassle). This is a solid card and a good way to go for people who want a well rounded card. It's not the best performer out there, but it offers a good performance boost over built in graphics hardware and leads cheaper add-in cards as well.

ATI Radeon HD 4670
Apollo 256MB $65
ASUS 512MB $68
HIS 512MB $70
Sapphire 512MB $70
Gigabyte 512MB $70


The Radeon HD 4830 has been pushed down in price slightly due to the appearance of the Radeon HD 4770. This puts it in competition with the GeForce 9600 GT, which can't quite match the former's performance. This gives the edge to the 4830 which is quite a step up from the Radeon 4670 if you can afford the extra $20 or so dollars.


ATI Radeon HD 4830
Apollo $83
Sapphire
$90
MSI $90
HIS $93
XFX $105



Sub $125 Cards

It seems like every time we look at the Radeon HD 4850, AMD has raised the bar once again. Performance of this part exceeds that of the Radeon HD 4770 which is still stuck, at best, at the same price it was at launch. Which happens to be the price to which the 4850 has finally fallen. Most 4770 hardware on newegg.com is actually more expensive than the 4850. And after rebate, the 4850 can even be had for as low as $90. That's simply amazing for the price.


ATI Radeon HD 4850
Sapphire $100
XFX $110
MSI $110
PowerColor $110
HIS $115


The GeForce GTS 250 512MB (aka the 9800 GTX+) typically costs more (though the Galaxy card can be had for the price of a 4770), and is definitely not as good a deal. The 1GB card does have its advantages, but it's price is also much higher.


Sub $145 Cards

While it seems to be declining in availability, the Radeon 4870 512MB drops in at between $125 and $150. At the low end, this is a great deal that competes incredibly well with the previous segment, but the availability of of these parts make it a deal not long for this earth. Certainly, at the low end, it is a much better deal than the GeForce GTS 250 1GB that falls in this range as well (though solidly at $140 with one card hitting $125 only after MIR). Even at the same price, the 4870 512MB is absolutely the way to go. As we've typically recommended, though, if you can spend the extra money, the 1GB option provides more well-rounded performance.


ATI Radeon HD 4870 512MB
PowerColor $125
HIS
$140
Sapphire $150



Sub $180 Cards

The Radeon HD 4870 1GB and the GeForce GTX 260 core 216 are the first set of cards we come to that were and have been direct competitors in terms of price and performance throughout their life cycles. Since the introduction of the core 216, driver development differences and aggressive pricing, this battle has been a matter of preference for quite a while now. It seems both AMD and NVIDIA are content to keep it that way. The Radeon HD 4870 1GB can have a bit of a price edge, but some of those NVIDIA cards might also have a bit of an overclock that balances it.


ATI Radeon HD 4870 1GB
XFX $150
PowerColor $155
HIS $160
MSI $165
Sapphire $170



NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 core 216
MSI $165
Sparkle $170
Zotac $175
PNY $180
BFG $180



Sub $250 Cards

The Radeon HD 4890 and the GeForce GTX 275 are both relatively new parts. The 4890 seems to have fallen in price across the board more rapidly than the GTX 275 and can generally be had for a better price (though there is one GTX 275 model that can be had for the same price as the 4890). If we look at mail in rebate, then the 4890 can have up to a $20 advantage and at $180 is a great deal and definitely worth it if you can afford that extra bit of cash beyond the previous segment (sounds like a trend doesn't it). At these prices, the 4890 is the way to go, especially if you don't have a 2560x1600 monitor. 


ATI Radeon HD 4890
PowerColor $200
XFX $200
HIS $200
MSI $200
Sapphire $200


We should add that for those who like single card dual GPU cards, the Sapphire 4850 X2 2GB is definitely interesting. We tend to prefer single GPU cards as they have more predictable performance characteristics, but this is not a bad price for entry into the multiGPU market. Sapphire has been and still is the only manufacturer to offer a 4850 X2 part. 


ATI Radeon HD 4850 X2
Sapphire $220



$300+ Cards

In this arena, AMD has run out of single GPU parts. NVIDIA has one left with the GTX 285, but with the >$100 price premium over the Radeon HD 4890, there are certainly diminishing returns here. While the Radeon HD 4870 X2 also offers an advantage over the GTX 285, there's another rather large price jump, but if you're going to spend the money then you get more for the jump from the GTX 285 to the 4870 X2 than from the 4890 to the GTX 285 as well.


NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285
Sparkle $315
PNY $315
Gigabyte $330
MSI $330
XFX $330



ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2
XFX $380
Sapphire $380
PowerColor $430
VisionTek $480


Way out in the stratosphere is the GeForce GTX 295. Solidly at $530, this one is definitively not a great deal. You pay a high premium for having these two GPUs in a single card, and picking up two GTX 275 cards will be both cheaper and faster. And if you really want to do that, two Radeon HD 4890 cards would be our recommendation there for less money.


Final Words

That's the update from field. It's only been a short time since some of these parts debuted and the market is already compressed like it hasn't been in quite a while. For those who can afford it, buying a video card today will get you a lot for your money.

In any case, there are two standouts today: the Radeon HD 4850 and the Radeon HD 4890. These two are really terrific values.

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  • SiliconDoc - Monday, June 22, 2009 - link

    What does matter are MINIMUM framerates which are the awful slows to a crawl or messes up one's timing spots in the games, and nvidia from all the reviews I've seen showing it have that WON even in the highest resolutions.
    So a few frames at the top are not the place to go to, nor are the averages, but a decent showing with the highest "low" framerate is what a smart gamer purchases.
    There is a reason minimum framerates are not shown.
    GTX260 is REALLY GOOD on keeping minimum framerates high, and often beats the 48xx series because their cores are so stressed already with mghz that when they hit a slowdown it's pronounced.
    The GTX275 is also great on lowest frames.
    So, people should remember it's not just a few frames at the top, nor is it the average. People should look at that, especially with lesser cpu's and memory than the test rigs reviewing.
    Reply
  • SunSamurai - Friday, June 19, 2009 - link

    Can we add all these cards to the bench?


    PLLEEEAAASSEEEEE
    Reply
  • The0ne - Sunday, June 21, 2009 - link

    Xbit labs did a review with performance and price. Reply
  • deputc26 - Friday, June 19, 2009 - link

    They're good for you
    they're good for me
    S-S-D(s)

    I'm getting scared that with new SSDs getting launched every day Anandtech's insight on the matter will be delayed indefinitely.
    Reply
  • ratbert1 - Friday, June 19, 2009 - link

    ZZF has the HIS 4890 1gb for $185 with a $20 rebate. That is a great price. It is the reference 850mhz card, but no matter, what a price!
    Reply
  • mcnabney - Friday, June 19, 2009 - link

    I already have one 4850 in my HTPC (which I also game on) and would like to increase performance.

    Is buying a second 4850 and doing Crossfire a wise choice?

    I am concerned about added heat, additional power use, and Crossfire bugs. Does two 4850s compete favorably with a 4890? I will be running at 1080p and have a Core2 Duo at 3.2ghz.
    Reply
  • Clauzii - Friday, June 19, 2009 - link

    Two is very nice in most games ;) Reply
  • McRhea - Friday, June 19, 2009 - link

    I got a 4890 back in April right after reviews started coming out. I love this card, it's amazing. I upgraded from an 8800GT. Got the card for $180 after cashback and a MIR in the Hot Deals forum.

    If you have a 1920 x 1200 monitor, you owe it to yourself to get a card capable of running max settings at your native resolution. The 4890 purrs along great in everything I play at max settings (full AA and AF). Only Crysis and Stalker Clear Sky give me trouble with full AA, however both games still look great with 0AA (Stalker) or 2xAA (Crysis) with all other settings maxed out.

    Oh, it's also SUPER easy to overclock using the ATI toolset, and you don't have to mess with voltages if you don't want to complicate things. My MSI 4890 is running at 925Mhz Core / 1100Mhz Memory (Default is 850Mhz Core / 950mhz Memory). That will get you a 5 to 10% increase in FPS with minimum fuss, more if you up the voltage and go with higher clocks.

    Bottom line: If you own a 1920x1200 monitor, get a card that will run your games in full detail at that resolution. Don't wait for DX11, just upgrade in 1 year once all the bugs have been worked out and the prices are lower.
    Reply
  • Jackattak - Friday, June 19, 2009 - link

    I just bought an XFX nVidia GTX275 on Newegg last week for just over $200 after $30 mail-in rebate ($235 paid up-front). I was surprised not to see the GTX275 on your list there, actually, as that to me is the single-best performance-for-price card out there right now.

    Being that I upgraded from an XFX 8800GT 512MB (which I purchased 2 years ago at ~$200, which is my standard GPU upgrade procedure), the performance jump is obvious and wonderful.
    Reply
  • bill3 - Thursday, June 25, 2009 - link

    How is the 275 the best deal when the 4890 is as fast or faster and selling for 160-170 after rebates all over the place?

    Heck, it seems like in newer benchmarks, the 4890 is beating the 285 let alone the 275.

    Hardocp just put up a brand new Powercolor 4890 review for example, and the 4890 beat the 275 in every game tested I believe. Although usually by slim margins to be sure.

    It especially seems true in newer games like Ghostbusters and Armed Assualt 2. I suspect because of it's superior shader power (evidenced by the fact it dominates benchmarks that measure shaders like furmark) the 4890 might be THE fastest card going forward. The one site I've seen with ARMA2 benches, 4890 beats all the other cards including the 285.
    Reply

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